The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Gray, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT) October 9, 2020
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2:11 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Catch up: Here's where things stand in the debate over the next presidential debates

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

There's been a lot of discussion today about the fate of the next presidential debates in the wake of President Trump's coronavirus diagnosis.

The Trump and Biden campaigns have yet to agree on a plan forward after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that next week's debate would be a virtual town hall instead of an in-person event.

If you're just catching up now, here's how things have played out so far today:

  • What started this: Early this morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the second presidential debate on Oct. 15 will be held virtually. The move by the commission to make the next scheduled debate virtual was seen as needed by members of the debate commission given the uncertainty around the President's health.
  • Trump's initial reaction: Moments later, President Trump told Fox Business, "I am not going to do a virtual debate." He continued: "I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate."
  • Biden's initial reaction: Shortly after the commission's announcement, the Biden campaign announced Biden would attend the virtual event on Oct. 15.
  • The Biden campaign proposal: Biden's campaign announced that because the President had seemingly bailed on the Oct. 15 debate — which was set to be a town hall-style debate — they urged the commission to make the debate scheduled on October 22 a town hall.
  • The Trump campaign proposal: After that, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said they would be willing to push the Oct. 15 debate back a week and then move the third debate to Oct. 29, just days before the November 3 election.
  • But then: But Biden's campaign rejected the Trump campaign proposal, with campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield saying in response, "Donald Trump doesn't make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does."
2:13 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

We asked viewers from around the country for their reactions to last night's debate. Here's what they said. 

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

Getty Images
Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris faced off Wednesday night in their only debate of the 2020 election campaign in Utah.

The debate covered more topics than last week's Trump-Biden showdown, but overall, the debate ultimately was about Trump.

Here are some reactions our viewers shared with us:

  • Steve from Tennessee: "Mike Pence won hands down. Kamala Harris's smirks and scowling and shaking her head when Pence was stating facts she knew were true was unbecoming at best. She ducked too many questions including packing the court and Biden's health or lack thereof."
  • Robin Edwards from Logan County, Kentucky: "VP Pence acted as if he was the superior person on the stage. He seemed to look down on the two women involved. Then, when it was over, his wife stripped off her mask. As head of the Covid task force, you'd think he would act with some sense. VP Pence acted like his boss, only with more polished words that were not true. He needs to stop the lying."
  • Nathaniel Cain from Cincinnati, Ohio: "While both candidates were equal in debate style, Harris (in my opinion) won on the one attribute that decided the 1960 TV debate between Kennedy and Nixon: physical appearance. Harris was calm, smiling and acted very professional while speaking directly to the American people as well as to Pence and Page. Pence on the other hand looked a bit uncomfortable, had a bloodshot eye and (in a viral moment) had a fly land on his hair for two minutes. So, while the issues were important to discuss, their appearance could not be any more different."
  • Alex from Boston: "I was proud to be a Biden/Harris supporter tonight. I do believe that Mike Pence is a decent man, but I also believe that he sold his soul to a devil named Trump. Pence and countless others who were complicit will be judged. There is simply no doubt."
  • Natalie Thornton from Indiana: "I don't believe that either candidate provided informative support to their running mates nor the American public. We are still left with unanswered questions that affect our current quality of life in this country and going forward."

Read more reactions here.

1:36 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Biden campaign rejects Trump debate plan: "Trump's erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar"

From CNN’s Dan Merica and Sarah Mucha

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is swiftly rejecting the Trump campaign’s request to push both debates back a week, moving the town hall debate from Oct. 15 to Oct. 22 and the third and final debate from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29.

Biden spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said in response, “Donald Trump doesn't make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does.”

She added: “We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 — in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate. Trump's erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing. We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That's his choice." 

Ron Klain, one of Biden’s top advisers for the presidential debates, tweeted a similar message.

“The debate dates were set months ago by the Debate Commission, and locked in by the two campaigns. Just this morning, Donald Trump rejected the debate set for next week,” said Klain. “He doesn't get to set the calendar based on his ever changing whims.”

1:08 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

McConnell says he hasn't been to the White House since the beginning of August

From CNN's Dominic Torres and Phil Mattingly

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes President Trump's health is doing fine, but he has not been to the White House since the beginning of August.

He also added a vaccine will not be ready until next year and that he agrees with Democrats that there is a need for another "rescue package."

"I actually haven't been to the White House since August the 6 because my impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing," he said. 

McConnell also briefly weighed in on the stimulus talks, only to underscore that significant differences remain. 

“We do agree that another rescue package is needed. We have vast differences about how much we should spend," he said.

As to the next presidential debate, McConnell said he had no observations beyond “there's going to be an election and both campaigns will do what's in their best interest.” 

12:47 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Trump campaign agrees on moving second debate back by a week

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's campaign manager issued a new statement today announcing they agree to a suggestion by Joe Biden's campaign to delay the second debate by a week so it can be in person.

"The [Commission on Presidential Debates] and the media cannot hide Joe Biden forever. Americans deserve to hear directly from both presidential candidates on these dates, October 22 and 29," Bill Stepien said in a statement. 

Earlier today, Trump said that he will not participate in the second presidential debate with Biden after the Commission on Presidential Debates said the event will be held virtually in the wake of the President's positive coronavirus diagnosis.

"I am not going to do a virtual debate," Trump said on Fox Business. "I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate."

12:00 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Biden "will find an appropriate place" to take questions from voters on Oct. 15, campaign says 

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks while campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on October 2.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks while campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on October 2. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is saying that because President Trump expressed that he will not participate in a virtual presidential debate next week, Joe Biden "will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on Oct. 15th, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks." 

Deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield urged the Debate Commission in a statement to move the town hall-style debate scheduled for Oct. 15 to Oct. 22 "so that the President is not able to evade accountability."

On Fox Business this morning, Trump said "I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate."

10:47 a.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Trump talked about his health, the election and the debates in an interview today. Here are the highlights.

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

President Donald Trump removes his mask upon returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5.
President Donald Trump removes his mask upon returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5. Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s been less than a week since President Trump announced he tested positive for Covid-19. He returned from Walter Reed Medical Center this week on Monday. Unsatisfied with the temporary office space erected for him in the White House residence, where he was isolating, Trump returned to the Oval Office Wednesday.

And this morning, the President gave a 56-minute interview to Fox Business. Here are the highlights from the phone interview:

The President said he will not participate in a virtual debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second debate between President Trump and Joe Biden will be held virtually. But Trump said he won't appear.

“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about,” he told Fox in an interview, calling it “ridiculous.” He lamented that the commission “didn’t even tell us about it” and that it is “trying to protect Joe Biden.”

Trump complained that he would have to “sit behind a computer” in a virtual debate and the moderator could “cut you off whenever they want.”

Trump said he doesn't believe he is contagious

"I don’t think I'm contagious, at all," he said less than a week after testing positive for coronavirus, adding that he is immune from another infection.

He attributed his recovery to being a "perfect physical specimen."

He said he’s ready to hold campaign rallies.

Less than a week after testing positive for coronavirus, he said he is ready to resume campaign rallies. He insisted he is, in fact, better than normal and is prepared to resume his campaign schedule.

"I think I’m better...to a point where I’d love to do a rally tonight. I wanted to do one last night," Trump said. "I feel perfect. There’s nothing wrong."

But then he said that he hasn't been tested for the virus.

It's unclear how the President is assessing that he is not contagious. When asked if he was recently tested, he said:

“No, I’ll be tested very soon, but I’m essentially very clean. They say it’s over a period of six, seven days,” he said. 

He called his illness "almost a gift from heaven."

Trump again praised the drugs he received at Walter Reed but said he couldn't have avoided contracting coronavirus.

"No matter how good the security you're not going to protect yourself from this thing," he said, adding later: "You catch this thing. It's particles of dust." The virus is not "particles of dust."

Some context to keep in mind: For Trump to not be contagious, it needs to have been at least 10 days, at a bare minimum, since Trump's first symptoms and 24 hours fever-free without taking medication that could reduce his fever. Trump should still be isolating, not campaigning. While he may have some degree of protection, no one can say for certain whether he is immune.  

11:12 a.m. ET, October 8, 2020

How undecided voters reacted to last night's debate

Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in their only debate of the 2020 election campaign Wednesday night in Utah.

CNN's Randi Kaye spoke to some undecided voters earlier today to get their reaction to the debate.

Watch the conversation below:

If you missed the debate, you can watch the highlights here.

10:25 a.m. ET, October 8, 2020

The commission was unanimous in decision to hold second debate virtually

From CNN's Dan Merica and Kevin Bohn

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates was unanimous in their decision to hold the second debate next week between President Trump and Joe Biden virtually, two members of the commission tell CNN.

Commission members met on Wednesday to discuss the proposal, where every member present (one person was absent) voted to hold the debate virtually, the members said.

The commission is made up of three co-chairs and ten members of the board of directors.

Following the announcement this morning, Trump said he would not participate in the debate.

"I am not going to do a virtual debate," Trump said on Fox Business. "I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate."

Biden's campaign on Thursday swiftly agreed to the virtual format.